May 14, 2007

"The Man behind the Curtain" --A recap, review, and lots of questions.

Well, LOST and Michael Emerson did not disappointment me. What an episode this one was! What a wonderful, scary ride “The Man behind the Curtain” was.

The episode began with a woman screaming her head off. She was in premature labor, in the middle of a hiking trail with nobody around her but her husband. She delivers a healthy baby boy, whom she names Benjamin. Roger Linus, Benjamin’s father, manages to bring his bleeding wife and newborn son to the highway and he is helped by a wealthy couple driving a 1960 Karmann Ghia. The woman, Emily [more about that later (1)], magnificently played by Carrie Preston (Michael Emerson’s wife), dies shortly after giving birth inside the Karmann Ghia. The birth took just 32 miles outside of Portland. We now know that Ben was not born on the island. He lied about that.

At the Other’s campground, Locke brought his dead father’s body on his back. Ben was not pleased at that sight. (2, 3) He was also experiencing dissent among his people. The tape recorder was gone, but was not in Juliet’s possession as he thought it would be. Tom did not answer to his questions. Locke started insisting that as he did accomplish his part of the bargain by bringing his dead father to the camp, Ben should now fulfill his part of the bargain and take him to see Jacob. As much as Ben wanted to stall, John Locke would not allow it. This time Ben had no choice, but to keep his word.

In the flashback, about 10 years after Ben's birth, Roger and Ben arrive on the island via submarine. They are to be part of the DHARMA Initiative. Roger was hired to be a workman (a janitor), something the man resents. (For those of you who cannot remember it properly, Roger Workman was the skeleton that Hurley found inside the VW bus in the “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead” episode.)

At the beach, Sawyer shows the castaways the tape recorder that Locke gave him. They now had proof that Juliet was a mole. Upon being discovered, she told them that after she examined Sun, she told Jack what Ben was making her do. The LOSTies were surprised that Jack did not inform them. “It was time to catch up,” Jack said. However, he had a plan.

At the camp, Mikhail came running to tell Ben about Naomi’s arrival and the need to attack the LOSTies’ camp right away, Locke’s insistence to Ben to go see Jacob, and Ben’s insistence to Locke that he would need to wait, was resolved by Locke beating up Mikhail and by neither Tom, nor Richard helping despite Ben’s orders for them to stop the carnage.(4) Ben had lost his power among his people. He had only one recourse: To show everyone that Locke was not special. So he took Locke to see Jacob.

We find out that Roger was a lousy father, did not care for his son, was constantly drinking, didn’t care about his son’s education, and always failed to remember his own son’s birthday. And Roger’s word, “Kinda hard to celebrate on the day you killed your Mom. She was just seven months pregnant, we went for a hike, but you had to come early. Now, she's gone, and I'm stuck here on this Island, with you.” (No wonder Ben is messed up. He has daddy issues as well.)

When Ben arrived on the island, he was a quiet, weepy child, and always pining for his mother. He made a friend named Annie, who for his birthday carved two wooden dolls. One represented her, the other represented him. He also learned through Annie that the natives, who were known as hostiles, were people to fear. The DHARMA Initiative, which was created to find harmony, found hostility.

Ben’s pining for his mom enabled him to see her spirit come to him on the island. The first time he saw her was in his house, the second time was around the pylons. She told him not to follow her. It was “not yet time.”

Ben found the code to disable to pylons and used his pet rabbit to make sure that the pylons were turned off. As he ventured outside of their compound, he met up with Richard. Not a younger Richard, but the same-age-as-today Richard. The only difference was that Richard was wearing what we might call "pirate clothes." (5)

Upon some questioning, Richard found out that Ben was looking for his dead mother who did not die on the island and was communicating with Ben. This information was very important to Richard. It made Ben special, and his mother’s message of “not yet time,” told Richard to await Ben’s growth. Ben, who wanted to join the hostiles, had to wait patiently.

A few years have passed, Ben was now a young adult, and a “chatty Cathy” his father called him. The DHARMA education paid off. This young and shy child evolved into a confident young man. We learn that DHARMA, however, is a cast-system-based society. Ben, despite his great education, was now a workman, simply because his father was a workman.

Once again, it was Ben’s birthday, and Roger forgot. To make up for his faux pas, his father invited him to go drinking beer at the mesa together. Roger somewhat apologizes to Ben about forgetting his birthday. Roger is no longer bitter about his wife’s death. But it is too late. Ben murders him by placing a gas canister that inflicts a terrible death. Ben just sits there and watches his father die.

Meanwhile, we find out that this was the day of the purge. (6) A number of DHARMA Initiative people were killed off. The hostiles were wearing masks, so they were saved. We find out that Ben, not only is a murderer, but he is a mass murderer.

So, are we to believe that in order to be in the Other’s good graces, one must be able to kill one’s own father? So Kate should be a great candidate.

Ben takes Locke to see Jacob. Just before he goes, he and Locke stop at a brook to fill up their canteen. Alex shows up and tells him that as he is going to see Jacob who should take the gun that she gives him. Ben is obviously stunned and angry. Alex in a snide remark wishes him a happy birthday. (7)

The cabin that Jacob lives in is dilapidated and surrounded by a mysterious powder that Ben made sure to skip over. Upon entering the cabin, Locke sees nothing but run-down furniture. Ben is talking to Jacob, but there was nobody sitting on the chair. Locke sees Ben as a pathetic man who was grasping at straws. Just as he was about to leave the shack, Jacob speaks to John by saying, “Help me!” Ben can’t hear Jacob. Locke, thinking that Ben was the one saying the words, asks him what did he say, and attempts to repeat what he heard when Ben denies saying anything, Jacob starts making a rumpus to make a disturbance. He throws the lantern that Ben brought in on the floor, smashing it to pieces and creating a small, contained fire. During these events, we see Jacob for a fleeting moment. Ben, who was not able to hear Jacob as Locke was able to, is now thrown aside by Jacob. Sadly, Ben realizes that he is no longer the favored son. (8)

Locke runs out of the cabin somewhat shaken up. Ben follows a few moments later and he hangs a now-completely recovered (as if it was never broken) lantern on the hook outside the house.(9)

Ben upset with Locke being the favored one now, takes Locke to the mass grave wherein all the bodies of those he killed a number of years ago. Ben tells Locke that he is not a native son, and then shoots Locke. He asks Locke to tell him what Jacob had said to him. When he heard that it was ‘help me,’ he tells Locke that he hopes that Jacob helps him, and walks away. (10)

Final thoughts

Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson are just great together. I hope that the powers to be do not kill either character off in the near future. They have a gold mine in their hands with these two seasoned actors. They definitely steal the scenes when they are among other actors, but together, they are so good. Neither one upstages the other. Both just compliment each other. If I had my druthers and I was a director, I would cast those two on Broadway on a revival of the Odd Couple. I would love to see them both weaving their magic in front of the audience: Terry as Oscar and Michael as Felix. Maybe one day my dream will come true.


(1) Not only was "Emily" Ben's mother's name, it was also John Locke's mother's name. Both women did not raise their children. Is Ben a mirror image of John Lock? Is he the evil and Locke the good one? Is it the case of black and white stone, ying and yang?

(2) Would Ben feel differently had he known that Locke did not kill his father?

(3) Would Ben get angry had he found out that Richard helped Locke find a loop-hole in his performing patricide?

(4) Why did Tom and Ben let Lock beat up Mikhail?
(5) Was Richard an original member of the Black Rock boat? Why didn’t he age?

(6) When did the purge occur? Could it have occurred about 16 years ago? That was about the time that Alex was born and the time that Danielle described the sickness. Could they have been affected by the poison gas? Danielle and her crew were not near enough to the actual massacre, but some poison may have crept over to their quarters.

(7) What is with Alex? Why is she so against Ben? Is it because the dislikes her boyfriend? Why does she have daddy issues? Was Ben a lousy father? It looked as though, like Locke, she was not able to do her own dirty work. Hence, she was almost begging for Locke to do it for her. Is patricide on of the major issues in LOST?

(8) Why is Ben no longer the favored son? Is Ben holding Jacob hostage to enable him to rule over the Others?

(9) What is with the lantern? How did it get to be fixed? Was it course correction? Did the past get altered to save the future?

(10) Is Locke dead? Probably not. Maybe Jacob will help him. He was shot in the kidney area, and guess what? Locke’s daddy stole his kidney. Locke should be fine.

There are still many questions left to answer. LOST is still going strong. Next week’s episode is “Greatest Hits,” a Charliecentric episode.

Source for photos: Michael Emerson Web Site

Click on the pictures to view the larger versions.

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